NATIONAL

States asked to push housing reforms

NEW DELHI, NOV. 29. The Centre has asked the States to repeal the Urban Land Ceiling Act and the State Rent Control Laws within a definite timeframe.

These reforms would give a push to the housing sectors, the Union Minister of State for Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation, Kumari Selja, said today, addressing the opening session of the two-day State Housing Ministers' Conference.

She said that the housing finance disbursements, have registered a major growth from around Rs. 5000 crores in 1995-96 to over Rs. 50,000 crores in 2003-04 due to housing finance institutions such as the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), the banking sector and the co-operative sector.

But access to finance for the weaker sections and the low-income groups is an area of concern as the major funding under the housing finance sector has gone to the middle and higher income groups except the mandated contribution by the HUDCO. "Out of the total housing shortage of 22.4 million units in urban areas, 80 per cent is the need of weaker section and low income group people," she added.

Social housing

Social housing for the weaker sections and the low income groups is required, she said.

India has a major market for rental housing as more than 50 per cent of the formal housing is through the rental route. Ms. Selja emphasised the need to launch a major rental-housing programme through the private sector; similar to that in Europe.

She also said that construction costs increase rapidly and called upon the people to use appropriate, cost-effective building materials and technology.

In his keynote address, the Minister for Programme Implementation and Statistics, Oscar Fernandes, said that the housing sector has tremendous potential to contribute towards employment generation and growth and urged state governments to take advantage of Central schemes.

He said that more attention and support should be given to the North-Eastern States including Sikkim and the HUDCO's presence in the North-East is negligible.

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